Originally created 05/17/02

Rascal Flatts is more than country, singer says



Lyric Street recording group Rascal Flatts refuses to be backed into a country corner.

Members of the Nashville band, which performs Saturday with Aaron Tippin at the Hot Southern Nights benefit for the Red Cross, may tip a 10-gallon hat or two to their twanging forbears, but they also flavor their distinctive vocal harmonies with elements of R&B, pop and soul.

"That's what we know," said Gary LeVox, one-third of the Rascal triumvirate. "Those were our influences. We listened to gospel, our grandparents played bluegrass and we bought a lot of Chicago albums growing up. The thing is, there is already a George Strait and a Garth (Brooks). We knew that to get inside this business, we were going to have to do something special."

The group's ascension to country superstardom has been something of a rocket ride. Mr. LeVox moved to Nashville in 1998 at the urging of second cousin and fellow Flatt-er Jay DeMarcus. The group's first album was released in 2000, and sales surged thanks to the group's accessible sound and Teen Beat good looks.

"The last couple of years have been a dream come true for us," Mr. LeVox said. " Our success happened so quick that we still haven't really had a chance to stop and smell the roses."

Mr. LeVox said that the rapid pace of concerts, recording, press and applause make it easy to end up in a cocoon with his band mates. He said a decision was made early on to not forget the reason they were initially attracted to a musician's life.

"There is no greater gift than knowing you have touched people's lives, if just for a moment," Mr. LeVox said. "We want to give people the opportunity to put their everyday lives aside and take a little break."

He said the band recently received a letter from the mother of a little girl suffering with cerebral palsy that reinforced that desire to connect on a personal level. The letter explained that the young girl had never spoken. One afternoon, her mother heard her humming along with a Rascal Flatts song. The mother asked if she liked that song and the young girl replied, "Yes" - her first word.

"You can't put something like that into words," Mr. LeVox said. "I just can't explain how that makes me feel. It's so easy to get lost on the road, playing date after date. But something like that really grounds you."

IN CONCERT

WHAT: Hot Southern Nights, featuring Aaron Tippin and Rascal Flatts

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, gates open 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Lake Olmstead Stadium, 78 Milledge Road

ADMISSION: Tickets available for $18 today at the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.; the Augusta Chapter of the American Red Cross office, 1322 Ellis St.; Harmon Optical in Southgate Plaza; or Koger-Walters Amoco stores. Tickets are $23 Saturday at the stadium. Call 278-4TIX or visit www.tixonline.com.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.